A Cingular 'Survivor'

Wireless outfit extends CBS franchise

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%%STORYIMAGE_LEFT%% Rupert Boneham has Cingular Wireless to thank for his $1 million bonus prize. The "Survivor: America's Tribal Council" special in which Rupert, wearing his trademark tie-dyed shirt, was voted America's favorite "Survivor" contestant, was dreamed up by execs at the Atlanta wireless company's media agency, Omnicom Group's OMD. According to Charlie Payne, media director at Cingular, OMD pitched the idea of a popularity contest using wireless phones.

"OMD threw out this idea to Mark Burnett Productions to have America vote for their favorite 'Survivor,'" said Payne. "Mark got very excited about it, ran with it and came back with the program."

As a result, Cingular bought a total of eight spots, two apiece in three of CBS's "Survivor: All-Star" episodes, "Town Hall," the finale and the special. The company's investment was about $3 million, not including Boneham's purse, which was paid by CBS.

The OMD pitch essentially created an additional night of "Survivor" programming; the "Survivor: America's Tribal Council" special, which was promoted to more than 20 million viewers during the All-Star edition's live finale Sunday, May 9. The special episode aired Thursday, May 13, and captured 19.11 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research, picking up a healthy 7.4 rating in adults aged 18 to 49, second that night only to the finale of NBC's "Frasier."

Voting kicked off on the night of the finale and continued through Wednesday. Viewers were given the option to vote through wireless or online at cbs.com

"Total number of votes, in all categories, was about 38 million," said Ann O'Grady, senior VP-marketing at CBS. "And there were no glitches." The voting process was branded by Cingular but it was open to most text-message carriers.

"The big carriers were all involved, like AT&T and Verizon," said Ellen Ross, VP-promotions and marketing at CBS. "Cingular developed the platform with one of their vendors and all the other carriers jumped on board with a universal text-message number." Payne's "cross-carrier" program not only increased exposure of the brand but also generated income.

%%PULLQUOTE_RIGHT%% The Cingular sponsorship of the "Survivor" popular vote also included a content offering. Viewers could download the "Survivor" logo, a ring tone and photos of "Survivor" All-Stars. A total of 8,193 downloads was registered by Cingular. "Cingular is looking to do these integrated deals around big television events," said Guy McCarter senior VP-director of entertainment marketing at OMD. "We are leveraging our media buys to get what they call data elements packaged in—text messaging and wireless content."

According to Payne, Cingular and OMD have been developing "data-element" deals with TV for 18 months. She said they've created a text-messaging trivia game on Bravo's "Celebrity Poker"; a voting program with TBS's "House Rules"; text messaging with CBS's NCAA programming; and Nascar programs with Fox, NBC and TBS.

They are talking with CBS and NBC about new, undisclosed deals. "We are looking for season long relationships that have text messaging and wireless content built into it with scripted shows," said McCarter.

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